Go Back To Heritage Food of India For Taste and Health!

There are chances that we have not even heard of dishes that our ancestors ate or maybe we just do not know the recipes that were followed of a particular dish by our great grandmothers. There used to be a large joint family system in India and each meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner was cooked fresh as there was no storage in fridges and of course ample availability of all ingredients. The best part was that we ate food that was actually native and changed our food strictly in accordance to the season. Partially eating from the season was due to non-availability and partially it was due to budgetary constraints. One had to keep food budgets under control to be able to provide for a huge family. The other highlight was near zero wastage, from root, to stem, to leaves and of course fruits were all a part of diet.

Toady modern science and some fashionable concepts of ‘farm to table’ or farm to fork seem to us so very attractive. India was always like that and it will be no exaggeration to say most of the households still follow this in their food habits connecting naturally to elements of nature and that unconsciously contributes to the nutritional requirements of human body. Our body has a great instinct to adjust itself to climate and even to day-to-day weather.  While Indian or let us see it as traditional Indian food (not modern food habits or any of food in today’s times) has played an important role to help this instinct of our bodies intact.

New age cooking has played havoc with our bodies and the primary reason is the use of technology, cold-chains and opening up our tastes to global cuisine which was never ours. Now this could be a similar nuance of any western country as well, where their food was developed according to their conditions not our and respecting their native food, they too have diverted from their traditions exactly the same was as we have.

Food advertisements too are to be blamed for misleading fact, for example some silly refined oil advertises being cholesterol buster, while another prompts us to be diabetic fighter. Silly isn’t it? We in India are now being asked to deep fry our pakoras (vegetable fritters) in olive oil leaving our own mustard oil aside or for that matter makes our sweets in refined oil as our own deshi ghee will give us a heart-attack. We need to understand that olive oil may be good for Mediterranean and not for us, not only our pakoras or vegetables will taste bizarre, but also it may not be good for our health, when living in India. Simple rule is to eat what is yours at least on a regular basis as a staple diet. India being a huge country changes its ingredients and cooking methods from region to region. There is use of coconut oil in almost everything that’s cooked in coastal regions or down south, while lot of mustard oil is used up in the north. Our food today, especially in the urban India is far from what it used to be, to the extent that many food items on our table are just lost if not forgotten. Grains, vegetables and even the meat have changed to cater to our taste and not to our bodies actually.

They say life comes a full circle and it is indeed true on our dinner tables, where it is once again becoming fashionable to go back to roots, enjoy bajra (pearl millets) and ragi (finger millet) if not in place of, at least along side with imported quinoa. Suddenly you will notice super-markets and stores to be stocking, makhana (Puffed lotus seeds) and jakhiya (wild mustard or dog mustard) just because of the fact that they are in demand and it is being considered happening to eat what our ancestors ate.

Why not term it as Heritage Food of India, where we connect to our roots, eat what we ate and cook the traditional way or at least as close to the tradition if not fully. Our chefs who are TV Chefs need to educate us about the subject and bring it all back in fashion. Televisions are big influencers and these could be quite a medium to bring us all back to ‘Root Food’ or call it ‘Heritage Food’.

Embracing the Heritage Food in our daily lives will not only aid health issues, but will also keep this system alive for our generations to benefit and feel proud of.  The way we preserve our monuments as a part of our heritage, I am sure food too can invoke the same passion and can narrate the entire period by way of food. How awesome it would be to understand what our ancestors from Mahabharata ate, or what did the Emperor Ashoka eat?